There are various reasons why you may be experiencing shoulder pain when raising your arm. In this post, we will explore some of those reasons and what you can do to help reduce the pain.
Shoulder pain when raising your arm

Possible Reasons why Your Shoulder Hurts when you Raise Your Arm

One of the most common diagnoses of shoulder complaints is shoulder impingement.

NHS also lists Tendonitis and Bursitis as the conditions that could be the cause of shoulder pain when moving [1]. All three of these conditions have one common denominator. That is the shoulder girdle muscles including the rotator cuff.

Download the NHS recommended shoulder exercises for pain

Shoulder impingement

There are different types of shoulder impingement but one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions is subacromial impingement. This is typically defined to happen when the soft tissues, i.e. the rotator cuff, bursa etc become sandwiched and compressed between the humeral head and the acromion.

There is much research on the causes and risk factors associated with this type of impingement. However, a definitive root cause and aetiology have yet to be identified.


A basic definition of tendonitis is when the tendon becomes swollen. The same concept as tennis elbow also applies to the shoulder. More commonly, the supraspinatus tendon becomes swollen. This further aggravates or could also be the cause of subacromial impingement. We recommend plenty of rest for those who suffer from supraspinatus tendonitis and not to over-exercise or perform repetitive motions without rest. Ideally, you should have sought medical attention before reading this post or attempting to perform our recommended exercises.


Bursitis is when the fluid-filled sac at your joint becomes swollen or inflamed. This typically heals within a few weeks. Your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics as a course of treatment if the cause was an infection. Bursitis can also be secondary to damaged muscles [2]. So, it is important to keep your shoulders healthy and quickly do something about any onset of pain you feel.

What Can You Do to Alleviate the Pain When You Raise Your Arm?

Most of the time, the reason why you experience shoulder pain when raising your arm is due to this imbalance in the contractions of the shoulder girdle muscles. Therefore the link to the list of exercises at the end of this post is designed to help the shoulder girdle muscles regain that balance.

Please note that these exercises are not personalised to you and you should seek medical attention from your GP or physician before attempting these movements. Before starting any exercise you need to warm up and stretch. A poor warm-up and completely missing the warm-up can result in injury.

Exercises to Help Alleviate Shoulder Pain when Raising the Arm

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